Hollywood's obsession with the white-hot children's fantasy genre shows no signs of cooling off. Soon after Puffin in the U.K. dropped an impressive $650,000 in a two-book deal for Matthew Skelton's Endymion Spring, film producers followed the money. At least one studio, Warner Bros. (home of Harry Potter), reportedly made an offer, although at press time no deal had closed. Set in present-day Oxford and Gutenberg-era Germany, Skelton's novel opens with a young apprentice's discovery of a mysterious chest held shut with clasps that resemble snake heads, complete with reputedly poisonous fangs. When he touches the chest, the fangs pierce his fingers, the trunk opens and the apprentice discovers a secret that will endure for another 500 years—until another boy stumbles upon it. Puffin U.K. will publish Skelton's first novel in spring 2006; the book's U.S. rights will go to auction this week. Rebecca Watson of London's Valerie Hoskins Associates handles Skelton for film.
Boxer—performance artist has got to be one of the stranger occupational hyphenates, but it seems to work for author Jonathan Ames. The retired amateur pugilist and downtown New York fixture has just optioned his latest comic novel, Wake Up, Sir (Scribner, 2004), to management company Three Arts and Ben Stiller's Red Hour Films. In the novel, gay-ish heterosexual (as the protagonists always are in Ames's stories) Alan Blair gets evicted from his uncle's New Jersey house and takes his trusted manservant, Jeeves, on a boozy adventure to an upstate artists' colony. In a jolting Charlie Kaufman—esque twist, Jeeves turns out to be (spoiler alert) entirely a product of wannabe novelist Blair's overactive imagination. Ames may soon raise his Hollywood profile even higher. Later this year he'll be shopping his own adaptation of his 1999 novel, The Extra Man (also Scribner), to producers. Previously, Ames's best-known book had been under option to Christine Vachon's Killer Films for another unusual hyphenate to direct: former Oxygen host— Target fashionista Isaac Mizrahi. Rosalie Siegel of International Literary Agency reps Ames for lit. Jody Hotchkiss of Hotchkiss & Associates handles his film rights.